Jesus is quoted as saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27). In the wake of the mass murders in Buffalo, New York, I am sure some are wondering just where is the peace Jesus promises.
The answer, my siblings in Christ, is that it is truly all around us. The confusion comes when we mistakenly look at the peace the world offers as being equivalent to the peace Jesus gives.
What is worldly peace? Most would define it as a lack of conflict. Sounds good, but truthfully, isn’t there always conflict somewhere: globally, regionally, at home?
The world gives peace conditionally. I do for you, you do for me. There’s a sense of indebtedness, perhaps mixed with a little guilt trip.
Can we really have worldly peace? In prosperity? Does it give peace, or does it generate more angst about protecting it, or worrying if it is really enough.
Worldly peace is an allusion. A wispy, far off promise that never quite comes true.
Not so with the peace Jesus gives. The word for the peace Jesus gives in the original Greek is translated as serene in English. More than merely a lack of conflict, it carries with it the connotation of restored relationship; with God. Which is what Jesus had come to do (and has done!) and is still doing!
So my friends, I encourage you to live in and into the peace Jesus has given us. Use the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that lives in, through and all around us. Need a reminder of these promises? One of the primary reasons she has been sent to us is to remind us of all Jesus has said, promised and done.
Lastly, don’t allow yourself to be afraid to live. Rather, bask in that serenity Jesus gives. Do we need to be evermore careful, even cautious as we live day to day? Sure. But don’t let that keep you from living lives of active, joy-filled love. Being aware of troubles in the world may just help us look for and find the serene peace Jesus gives. Here’s a little prayer that helps me remember to do just that:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
As we walked Violet, our Goldendoodle, early this morning, my wife Betsy asked what I had planned for my day. I listed several chores I was going to do around the house and added that I hoped to publish a blog, if only inspiration would come. I explained that the well had been dry the last few days, but I was remaining committed to share what I believe God puts on my heart.
Things still appeared a bit dry, even as I began to research John 11, the raising of Lazarus, as a possible blog. It was at this time that my phone let me know I had a new text message from our dear friend Cheryl. (I highly recommend checking out her blog, Care for Parkinson’s, found here on WordPress, to get to know her as we have. She is a blessing!)
Anyway, Cheryl shared a devotion for today that had spoken to her in such a way that she wanted Betsy and I to have access to it as well. Having now read this, I feel the prompting of Holy Spirit to share some thoughts on this passage of Scripture. Thank you Cheryl for the nudge I needed today!!
Chapter 14 of Matthew’s gospel contains the familiar account of Jesus walking on the turbulent sea toward the boat the disciples were struggling against the wind in. Verse 26 tells us what they felt as this unexpected sight: When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. (NIV)
Jesus then attempts to assure them that it is indeed Him, and they need not fear. At this point Peter speaks up, “Lord, if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 NIV)
You probably know the rest of the story: Jesus tells Peter to come to Him on the water. Peter jumps out of the boat and does start to walk on the water, only to start sinking when he took his focus off Jesus and put it on the waves all around him.
Lessons abound on this point, as much has been written and said about Peter’s apparent lack of faith. Even Jesus points this out to the Twelve when He and Peter get into the boat with them as He chastises them for having doubt instead of faith.
To be honest, I sometimes want to get a little judgmental toward the disciples. I mean, they had seen Jesus do so much. He had healed many and produced food for thousands out of basically nothing. His teachings and overt actions of love toward so many had been witnessed by this select group.
But I am not in judging mode today. Today instead of pointing a figurative finger at the disciples, I am instead marveling that Peter got out of the boat at all. I do not have much experience being aboard boats, save a few canoe trips (on a calm pond) and sight-seeing cruises around The 1000s Islands here in Northern NY.
This makes me appreciate all the more what Peter did. At least he got out of the boat at the invitation of Jesus. We can safely assume he was as startled/scared as any of them at the sight of someone walking toward them on the water; water that the 12 had been struggling to cross for some hours in the dark of night.
Yet, Peter got out of the boat. I believe I understand a few things better now as I re-read this narrative. First, Peter asked Jesus a specific question (If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water. V. 28) to which Jesus simply said, “Come.”
Despite what he was feeling, Peter heard from Jesus, and got out of the boat. He could have stayed aboard with the others, waiting to see how this played out. Sure, it was windy and wavy, but he was an experienced mariner and probably knew he would survive this squall as he had many others before. Lesson received, Peter: Don’t stay paralyzed in a circumstance. Rather, seek Jesus. Ask Him what to do and then act in faith on His response.
This took a fair amount of courage on Peter’s part. Talk about literally stepping into the unknown! He trusted in Jesus, and got out of the boat! And for a few wondrous moments, he too was walking on the water. Next lesson from Peter: There may well be great wonder when you step out in faith. To get the fuller extent of this wonder, we need to keep our focus on Jesus. It is my intention to do so, but I/we all know that the world around us is often in upheaval, revealing things that often vie for our attention. Thanks to Peter’s example, I am going to make a better effort to stay focused on Jesus.
Yes, I plan on getting out of the boat more often because the One who calls me to is ever faithful. He will not allow me to fall by the way, so long as I realize I need Him for every step I take (be it on dry ground or not!?).
How about you? Any ‘getting out the boat’ experiences you would like to share?
I would love to hear them.
As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.
Ah, Google, how did I ever learn things before you showed up on my computer. I was mulling over the idea for today’s blog while shoveling snow from the driveway earlier, attempting as I do to find application for today from the timeless truth found in the Scriptures. Actually this blog has been rattling around between my ears for about a week, ever since I re-read the encounter a father of a sick /possessed child had with Jesus. (please check in out in Mark 9:14-27)
If you just read this or are familiar with the event contained there, and if you have a beating heart in your chest, you can sense the desperation in the dad. Back to Google for a moment: I knew there existed a famous quote about desperate times and measures, and thanks to the search engine, there it was: The Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates said it first and said it best: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” In other words, drastic times call for drastic measures.
You can get a sense of the drastic times calling for drastic measures the father felt as he spoke to Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
Whether this was demon possession of a terrible affliction of seizures is not the point. What is important for us to focus on is the strong desire of the boy’s father to help his son. Word of Jesus and His healing power was well known by this point in His earthly ministry, as evidenced by the large crowds following the Lord everywhere He went. No matter if folks were merely looking for a show or if they were also desperate to have a need met, they sought out Jesus in droves.
In this case the father, in searching for Jesus he instead came across His disciples, who also by this time had a growing reputation of being healers. In this case, however, they were unsuccessful in healing the boy. Again, the sense of desperation is palpable in the dad as captured in his response to Jesus when asked by the Lord how long the child had been in this condition: “From childhood,” he answered. “It often throws him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:21-22 NIV).
Did you catch the “if you can?” Jesus sure did! “‘If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” As was Jesus usual approach, He wanted people to see the necessity of placing their faith in God for all things as opposed to simply seeking intervention for their problem. (V.23)
The desperate dad then exclaims what I believe to be the heart of this message, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (V.24)
Those of us who have been blessed with having and loving children probably identify with the depth of feeling this father had. After all, his long-suffering son seemed to be in the right place and at the right time for something miraculous to happen, but it had not. I can relate to his plea. “Tell me what else to do” in order that my child be helped. Any devoted parent would make any sacrifice in that moment for the welfare of their child. As you read the rest if this account, you see where the mercy, love and power of Jesus Christ does restore the lad to health.
What I am left pondering, and invite you to do the same, Most Precious Reader, is how desperate am I for Jesus in non-crisis times. Those times when life is cruising along pretty much as I want it. I am comfortable in my surroundings and not worrying about anything substantial.
Where is Jesus in these times of life? Am I merely keeping Him on retainer for when something comes along to knock my life off course? Sadly and honestly, there are times when I simply do take things for granted. Oh, I can do the things I do and say all the right things that go along with my calling, but is this where Jesus wants my heart?
The obvious answer is no. The Lord is zealous for the relationship He has forged with those who know Him through faith. And I believe He wants me/us desperate for more of Him, not merely content with what I have, for as my desire for more of Him grows within me, much of what I selfishly cling to falls away.
Realizing this, I join my prayer with the boys father, and ask Jesus to help me overcome my unbelief.
How about you? Do you struggle with areas of unbelief or maybe a lackadaisical type of faith? I would love to hear how you overcome that.
Two for One! Retailers of all sizes have been using this sales pitch for as long as I can remember. Reading those ads or hearing it on TV sounds so appealing: Simply pay the asking price for one item and receive a second one free (with the disclaimer: of equal or lesser value).
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before mega malls squashed small family businesses, I managed a retail shoe store. We sold men’s, women’s and kids shoes. Twice a year we would run a 2 for 1 sale to move remaining inventory to make room for new. The sales gimmick would work to an extent, but folks with average size feet usually found the selection pretty well pick over.
But enough about shoes, let’s turn our attention to the next of the miracles of Jesus found in John’s gospel. As we do, we will actually find two miracles in Chapter 6, verses 16-21. A supernatural 2 for 1, if you will!
These events occur on the evening of the miracle of the loaves and fishes we looked at last time. After Jesus had miraculously fed 15,000 folks by multiplying five loaves of bread and two small fish, the Lord escaped from the crowd to the hills beyond. He did this because He knew that after seeing this miracle, the large crowd wanted to proclaim Him their king. Jesus, knowing this it was not yet time, went off by Himself.
Picking up the narrative at this point, we find the disciples have gotten into a boat without Jesus and were rowing to the other side of the lake, approximately five miles from where they left from.
The bible says that they had rowed for some time against a strong wind and were barely halfway across. The disciples are then frightened when they see someone walking toward them on the turbulent waters. I find no fault with the fear the twelve felt, for I am sure that had I been in that vessel with them, my fright meter would have been pegged as well.
Miracle number one then is Jesus walking on the water toward the boat His disciples were struggling in. Just hours before Jesus had fed 15,000 from a pitifully small basket of food, demonstrating His power over matter. Walking on water is evidence of the Lord’s mastery over nature as well.
The second miracle occurs after Jesus gets into the boat with the disciples. Jesus first assures them who He is. Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (John 6:21 NIV). The second half of the journey across the Sea of Galilee ends in less than a wink of an eye as the boat is now safely ashore at their destination.
As I mentioned above, I find it quite easy to relate to the disciples. Even though they had now first-had experience with the power Jesus displayed, their circumstances in life still somehow diverted their attention from God to their immediate trouble. I do not have time or room to mention the countless times I have done the same.
Praise God He is patient with us all! Jesus doesn’t reprimand them for a lack of faith, He just joins them in the struggle and safely brings them to the other side.
The lesson I glean from this today to share with you, Most Precious Reader, is this: Do not get into the boat without having invited Jesus to go with you! Though I do not have any boating plans today, I will be going about many of my usual activities. Granted, most of these are fairly routine. But experience tells me that if I go off without acknowledging my need to have Jesus with me even during the mundane, surprises can upset my apple cart. Also, If I charge off on my own, I am less likely to see the ‘God moments’ that happen around me. What I might shake off as random encounters may well have been opportunities to share in some way the goodness of God. Simply taking the time to ask the Lord to be with me in my daily journey helps my spirit to stay better in tune with His. Perhaps the greatest blessing from this comes in those times when I am consciously aware of the presence of Jesus, the storms of my life do not seem to seriously rock the boat I am in.
This 2 for 1 with Jesus will never have you missing out on your size and more importantly, you will find that the bill you owe has already and eternally been paid by Him.
The third recorded miracle recorded in John’s Gospel is yet another encounter between the Son of God and an individual. You can (and should) read all about in John 5:1-13. As a matter of fact, please read it after you are done looking at this blog, for it is a particularly good practice to check for yourself the scriptures someone is teaching/writing about. This helps you verify what is being considered and more importantly, opens your heart to what Holy Spirit may be wanting to reveal to you.
For the all-important context, an undisclosed amount of time has passed since the end of Chapter 4 where Jesus had spoken a word of healing over the royal official’s son.
In Chapter 5, Jesus is now back in Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts. The Lord walks to one of the gates of the city where many sick and invalid folks are. There is a pool of water in that place that many believe has healing powers, if only they can be the first to get in when the water is stirred up.
The Bible describes this collection of folks at this pool like this: Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (John 5:3 NIV).
I must admit that I have wondered from time to time why Jesus didn’t just speak the words of healing over that entire gathering. Certainly, He has the power and compassion to do so, yet the Lord sought out only one person at that time. Though I cannot pretend to know why, my guess is that Jesus wanted this interaction to be personal; showing us that He can/will be personal with each one of us as well. More about that in a bit.
The author tells us that the man Jesus spoke to had been an invalid for 38 years and undoubtedly had been brought to this supposed pool of healing many times. Jesus addresses this fellow with what seems to be the most obvious of questions: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV)
Whether the man thought the answer was implied because he was there we don’t know. What we can be certain of is that the lame man went directly into his litany of how he has no one there to help him get into the water when it is stirred, thus preventing him from partaking of the possibility of healing.
What a human-nature laden response that is! How many times, Most Cherished Reader, have you and I gone into a blow by blow account of our ailments when asked how we are. It seems that at times we simply want the whole world to know every ache, pain and problem we have. Maybe I’m looking for strength in numbers through your sympathy when I engage in this activity. But no matter my reasoning, I am not helping my condition in any way by merely re-hashing what the issues are.
In the case of our invalid friend at the pool, Jesus does not bite on the invitation to commiserate. Instead, the Lord simply tells the man to get up, pick up his mat and walk. The healing is immediate as John tells us this man who had been waiting for so long for help does just that!
Jesus then slips quietly away, once again allowing for the glory of God to be revealed rather than any flashy spotlight to be shone on Him.
Reading on, we find that neither the Jews he encountered or the newly healed man himself had any clue as to how or why this miracle has occurred. The people, instead of rejoicing that this crippled man was now somehow walking among them, pointed out he was breaking a Sabbath rule by now carrying his mat around as he walked on rejuvenated legs!
The former lame man was clueless as well: The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there (John 5:13 NIV).
So why did Jesus select this one individual for healing at that time? Until we see the Lord face to face to ask Him, we won’t know. If I may be so bold, however, allow me to propose two possible explanations as to why this played out the way it did.
First, as I mentioned above, Jesus had to get through the wall of defense the crippled man had built up. His pain and misfortune had become familiar daily partners; so much so that they were what he mentioned to Jesus when asked directly if he wanted to be healed. Don’t you and I do something similar from time to time? It is as if we are more comfortable talking/lamenting/complaining about our problems than we are in doing what we can to lessen or remove them.
Though this first possible reason puts an unfavorable light on how we sometimes deal with adversities, the second reason I propose is teeming with grace and mercy from the Lord. From the many, many people who were desperately waiting for healing, Jesus personally presented Himself to just one at that time. I point this out not as a lament for those still waiting, but rather as evidence of Jesus’ level or personal care that He makes available.
Did/does He have the power to heal them/us all with one spoken word? Absolutely! But here, as in other cases, Jesus is stressing the eternal value of entering relationship with Him as opposed to merely supplying a band-aid to the issue at hand. I know that my tendency after recovering or feeling better is to forget about what was wrong and how I got over it. Jesus desires to help us all on a much deeper level than just alleviating our pain.
As wonderful as the physical healing is or would be, the eternal significance of the personal relationship Jesus offers cannot be overstated. That is why, in my opinion, Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to record this particular healing event, for it highlights the personal way Jesus reaches out to all of us, one at a time!
I pray that you and I come to that place that allows us to know the personal invitation of Jesus Christ. If that entails healing from sickness or infirmity, may it be to His praise and glory! But most importantly, may we, after this type of encounter with the Lord, walk from it with the comfort and assurance of God’s personal love for each and every one.
We’ve all heard the adage, ‘hindsight is 20/20.’ Even though our look back can still be skewed, things are often clearer as we consider the course of past events.
Joseph, the son of Jacob, was an important figure in the Book of Genesis. As one picks up his story near the end of that book, you find that his father is now dead, and his brothers have come to him to apologize for the contemptible way they had treated him. For review, Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, which caused his older half-brothers to be extremely jealous of him. They plot to kill young Joseph but instead settle on selling him into slavery.
Joseph had many trials as a slave; to say nothing of being abandoned by his family. Genesis records the ups and downs of his life. Finally, he becomes a very powerful person in Egypt, rising to the number two person in power there, subject only to Pharaoh. He plans for and then administers the food he had set aside during a wide-spread famine in such a way that many lives are spared.
The narrative tells of Joseph brothers coming to beg food. They do not recognize him as their brother. Still, he takes care of them. Sometime later, after their father Jacob has died, the brothers come to him again.
Here is the account of part of what Joseph said to his brothers at that meeting which can be found in Genesis 50:20:
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (NIV)
Here we see clear evidence that Joseph had 20/20 vision as he looked back over the events of his life. He recognized that everything that happened to him was part of God’s overall plan for his life. Joseph makes a great testimony to the sovereignty of the Almighty.
The question I ponder as I consider Joseph’s life is this: Did he have that same insight about God’s plan as the bad things were happening to him? Was he able to keep his chin up and say, “It’s alright, God is working out part of His great plan through what is happening to me.”?
If I put myself in Joseph’s place, I do not see me saying those things as they occur. Being threatened with murder and then abandoned by my family would most certainly evoke anger with a dose of desiring revenge sprinkled in.
However, I will gladly admit that the passage of time has helped to attune me somewhat with God’s plan as it has unfolded in my life. I can see more clearly now that much of what I have gone through, self-inflicted as it was, has been used by our Heavenly Father to mold me into a more useful instrument for Him today.
I have concluded that we are not given the day to day thoughts of Joseph for good reason. This allows us to work through our own stuff. What needs to be constant is our focus on God, not on our circumstance.
God is true to His word. He is working all things for good: His good! We ought to be honored and humbled that He chooses to give us a role to play in the grand scheme of things. I’m not saying this makes everything easy to go through, but experience is helping me to learn that the more I trust God in the midst of the storms of life, the less turbulent are the seas.
The apostle Paul sums this up for us in his letter to the Romans in verse 28 of Ch. 8: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
The word translated as know used by Paul in this verse carries with it the idea of coming to know and understand something and then to put that information to use. For me, and hopefully you, Faithful Reader, this is a great teaching point. We are to see our current circumstance or those formational parts of our lives as being parts of God’s greater plan. I do not know why this often includes going through trials and pain. But I can say from my own experiences that it is the seasons of pain and uncertainty that have been the ones that have brought me closer to Him.
Admittedly, I usually don’t come to the point of understanding until I’ve gone through what it is I am going through. I am learning through them all to trust more and more in God’s care, which is, I believe, the point Paul makes as we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.
Seen in this light, the occurrences of our life are not just random and scatter-shot, but are actually all part of an intricate plan sculped by our all-powerful and knowing God.
Today, I am grateful that with the help of my eyeglasses my vision looking forward is 20/20. Yet even more this, I am eternally grateful that God is revealing to me that His care, love and protection are infinitely perfect today as they were yesterday and will be going forward.
The Labor Day Holiday was established in 1884 in a time of unrest among the working class. Exploitation was often cited by the fledgling labor unions as low wages and long hours in unsafe conditions were often the rule. Workers were perceived as little more than replaceable parts in the greater machine; if you didn’t like conditions or the wages being offered, someone else would. The Carpenters and Machinist Unions both claim to be the impetus behind this movement.
Many of these labor leaders were campaigning for an innovative idea, one that would curtail the overuse of the labor force. What they were asking for was not only one day from work per year to celebrate those who worked by the hour, but also for the idea of a balanced day. They were proposing that management establish an 8-hour work day which would then allow for this balance: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of rest.
That equation for the use of 24 hours sounds good, doesn’t it? However, as it is true today that you cannot legislate morality, coming up with a formula to live each 24 hours by is equally fruitless.
We might get one segment right, but overdo another which then disrupts the third. My experience and the experience of many that I know is that the segment that gets most short-changed is rest. Ask yourself, how’s this balance working for you? Many work more than 8 hours a day and yet will still attempt to get full time in on recreation. The result is less than ideal, for even though you get away from the workplace, fatigue still wins out. You can look at any of these three segments of time, I guarantee for most of us the one that gets cheated the most is rest/sleep.
As He is always faithful to do, God provides us exactly what we need. In the context of resting from our labors, please consider what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30 in your search for balance:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (NIV)
Jesus calls us to life in Him. We have eternal life assured through the salvation He has won for us. Paul’s letter to Ephesians clearly spells this out:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God –9 not by works, so that none can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Salvation is God’s gift to all. We play no active part in it other than to receive it. God’s grace is extended to anyone that professes Jesus Christ as Savior.
However, there are plenty of God’s promises to us that do require us to do our part to realize them. With regard to the rest Jesus offers, He tells us that we are to “come to him, all who are weary and burdened.” Please do not miss that all-inclusive invitation to all of us who are weary and burdened!
Acknowledging that we play a part in experiencing this rest, what are we to do?
First, admit our need of this balanced life. If we’ve honestly looked, we’ve seen that we need to have it. Also, it’s ok to admit “I’m tired.” No shame in that, as matter of fact many of us succumb to pride when we push on through fatigue thinking we can overcome any obstacle if we work long and hard enough. This is rarely possible for us and never long-lasting. Only Jesus has ‘overcome the world.’ He’s the only one who could. Humbly go to Him seeking this rest.
And it’s not not just weary, but ‘burdened.’ What are you burdened by today? Finances, health, children, work, the state of the country/world, etc.? Plenty to be burdened about and they quickly become too heavy if we try to carry them on our own.
However, there are two things we need to do to hold up our end of the promise to have rest. In verse 29 of Matthew 11, Jesus tells us first to: “Take my yoke.” This is an act of our will. We take what Jesus offers, here referred to as a yoke (oxen teams; we’re made up of two animals with the smaller, less experienced one on the outside). Jesus is on the inside carrying the heavier load, to symbolize that the Lord’s guidance will bring us peace and rest.
Secondly, we are to learn from Him. “You’ve tried the rest, now try the best!” Look over your track record with dealing with problems and difficulties on your own, or in your way or power. If your past success rate is as low as mine in doing things this way, you can see that we have some things to learn from Jesus. Hence, once yoked to Him, we are to learn from Him; the One with the strength and wisdom, the One on the inside.
In conclusion: Doing life; isn’t that what the original proponents of Labor Day were attempting to legislate? So much time for this, that and the other thing. Jesus has been and is still offering this way of life all along!
His yoke is not easy because He expects less from us, rather it is light because He carries so much of the load! In the same way, our burdens don’t lighten or go away simply because we follow Jesus, but again because He carries the majority of the weight, they become so much lighter and easier for us to carry.
Is there a balance that can be found in life like the people who established Labor Day 135 years ago were striving for? If you are looking for a neat and well-structured formula of 8-8-8, the answer is most likely no.
But if the balance you seek has Jesus in the heart of all you do, then the answer is a resounding yes! Jesus has told us again today that He will give us rest. His offer is true and reliable. He will give it if we seek Him for it. It all boils down to a question of faith: Is what God’s Word says applicable to us today? If you believe that it is indeed ‘active and alive,’ the answer is again yes!
With the truth of God activated in your heart and mind, you can know and experience the wondrous truth that Jesus Himself provides the ‘rest for our souls’ that we need.
On this Labor Day, and every day, keep all that you do centered on the Lord Jesus. As you do, you will find that the rest He gives doesn’t just come at the end of our physical activity, but in fact is present and available to us all the time. As you let this truth take root in your heart, you will find that you will not need legislation to provide you balance between work, leisure and rest, Jesus Christ has and is your balance in abundance.
As we continue to face the challenges and changes the corona virus outbreak is having on all of us, I have also discovered a few silver linings in my daily life.
One of these is the on-going discovery of people I do not know who live in my neighborhood. As you may recall, Faithful Reader, I have worked primarily out of our home for the last 3 and a half years. On any given day, I will take two or three long walks with our Golden Doodle, Violet (my computer would not let me use any of my own pictures of her, but this photo from pinterest is strikingly close to what she looks like).
Previously, these walks have been completed almost exclusively without seeing anyone to speak to. Over these past few days, that is no longer the case! Parents prevented from going to their workplaces are outside at times they never were before. Many, like me, are on potty runs for their dogs.
The pastor in me tries to take these meetings as opportunities to share hope. Having Violet along has certainly made conversations easy to start. Almost everyone is taken by her soft coat, soulful eyes and goofy personality. As we share info on our different pooches, the talk invariably comes around to the current circumstances that have led us to meet.
I am not now, never been, and probably never will be a very successful evangelist. I don’t have the gift of gab, if you will, that allows words to smoothly and cohesively flow from my mouth. No, my strength seems to be more in the walking out of my faith. This, I have been told, is most evident in my peaceful demeanor. “You are easy to talk to,” and, “thanks for listening” are things I hear quite often.
So it is with those gifts that I engage my new-found neighbors in conversation. By asking what their ‘normal’ was before this all started, I can begin to get the sense of what is most troubling them in these days. Invariably, they will then ask me the same question to which I reply that my routine is pretty much as it was. I then offer to tell them about our home-based ministry and some of the care we bring to our community. As I do, I extend the invitation to them as well by asking if there is a specific area of concern for which I can be praying for them. I gladly tell them of the resources we have available that may be of some help.
I share this with you today as an encouragement to take the new opportunities that are presented to you through this radical shift in your day to day life. I understand the fear and uncertainty you may be experiencing, but my encouragement is that you not let them dominate your life. In the midst of being careful and making preparations for the days to come, please stay aware of the people who have now appeared on your radar. Please don’t be afraid to lend a listening ear or offer to help if appropriate.
Together, we will get through this. Just ask Violet, she has heard me encourage quite a few of this recently.
Blessings and thanks for taking the time to read this,
In September of 1969 The band Blood, Sweat and Tears released the single When I Die. (Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro). I’ve included the link here should you want to give it a listen.
Being honest, I was never a big fan of their music or this song. But like much of the music of my youth, the words of lots of songs have stayed in the recesses of my memory. People I meet or circumstances around me will often spur one or more of these tunes to the forefront. Such it is today with this particular song as I contemplate the crisis that has befallen us concerning the Corona virus/Convid-19
Though I realize I’ve written here before of my clearer understanding that I am closer to the end of my life at 60 than I am to its beginning, for the most part this remains an abstract idea to me. Yes, I know what comes to each one of us. It’s just that my Doctor says I’m in pretty good shape (for the shape I’m in) and truthfully, I’m not ready to go into the ever after just yet.
I also know that as a Christian pastor, I am to be helping folks come to their own grip with life, death and after-life. Part of that is to bear witness to the fact that I am completely assured of my forever home because of the faith I have in Jesus Christ. And I do have total trust that the Lord died to forgive sinners in order that we might have our eternal fate sealed in Him. I do try to faithfully carry this message of God’s love in all I do.
Hence, my struggle as I hear this verse play in my head again:
I’m not scared of dying
And I don’t really care
If it’s peace you find in dying,
Well, then let the time be near
With apologies to David Clayton-Thomas (lead singer of Blood Sweat and tears) and simply stated, I am scared of dying. Notice I didn’t say I was frightened of what comes after I die. What I am afraid of is facing the process of dying. My track record on handling pain and discomfort is not so good. This makes me worry that I may face my end times with less dignity than I ought.
Also, like so many, I have people in my life that are very dear to me. The thought of this pandemic bringing them suffering and death shakes me to my core. Along with this comes the dark thought of what my life would be like without them in it should this happen.
Blessedly, the assurance of the Scriptures bring more than enough comfort to deflate the fears I have. I share some of these now in case you are experiencing any fear because of this current crisis.
Psalm 23:4 reminds us: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. I let that sink in again today: the God of the Universe is with me! Certainly circumstances are uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worse, but God is with us no matter what!
Jesus reminds us that we will face trouble in this life: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV). The Savior Jesus Christ, the embodiment of all truth, tells us we will have trouble in this life. But more importantly, He also assures us that He has overcome any and all things that want to prevail against us. Though personally I would have preferred Jesus to tell us we would have no troubles at all in this life, I realize how quickly I would forget all about Him if I never struggled with things. The emphasis needs to be seen in that Jesus has overcome! I find great peace in that today, no matter the chaos going on around me.
There are countless other Scriptures to help us in our most trying times. Please feel free to reach out to me should you like to see more of them.
So there you have it, Faithful Reader, a look into some of the stuff that bounces around inside this head of mine. I welcome your insights, thoughts or questions.
As always, my deepest appreciation for taking the time to read this,
My mother passed away after a long battle with dementia Tuesday of this week. Later this morning I will have the honor of leading her committal service. I’ve posted here some of what I will say during that time. It is my hope that you, my faithful readers, may find comfort in these words as well; for we all know the pain the physical death brings to our families.
I will begin the service by reading Psalm 23:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; you rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NIV)
I will then deliver this short message:
It is always with a certain amount of sadness when we gather at times like this. Life, as great as it can be, holds the final card over our physical lives. Experience teaches me, and I share with you, that healing begins as you feel your emotions in these times. Each of us had a different relationship with my mother, and regardless of the depth of that relationship, there is now a void. The spot in your heart that she occupied is now empty, leaving us sad and wishing it didn’t have to be this way.
As we process our grief, we now share the responsibility of keeping mom’s memory alive, as we share our stories of the good times and the positive influence her life has had on ours. That can be somewhat easy today, as we gather in support of one another. As we share our memories, we will readily laugh today as cherished things from our shared past will be re-visited. This is a good thing as it helps us all to begin to process our grief.
The more difficult times will be when we are alone. This is when the sadness, the reality of the loss can seem at its most powerful. When you get to that place, please call to mind the words I read a moment ago. Our ultimate comfort comes from the Lord. His perfect love is tailor made to each of our hearts. He promises to always be with us and He is faithful to keep that promise.
My last piece of love-filled advice is to remember what the psalmist wrote about death: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .I walk, there is a sense of movement through it.
These words encourage us to not wallow in our grief. As I said at the top, feel your grief. Let others know how you are feeling. Cry as you need to, but please keep your feet, your heart, and your mind, moving forward. This is not to say we are trying to block memories from our past with mom. No, keep them alive as you continue living your life. Yes, it is now one person less than it was and collectively we mourn that fact today. But she remains alive within us as we all make the effort to remember our mom in the love you have for her.
Always, I thank you for taking the time to read what I post and I covet your prayers during these difficult times.